As I sit alone in the Relatives Room outside the operating theatres at Christchurch Public Hospital, there is one constant sound and some periodic discordant ones. The constant sound is the ceiling fan, forcing a circulation of air in the room. The periodic discordant ones include doors banging closed, lifts dinging, footsteps squelching on the hard vinyl floor, and the odd groupings of people laughing loudly as they walk past the room. It’s late on Saturday night, and although one of my sons lies nearby, he is very much out of my reach for the next hour or more. What began as stomach pain on Thursday morning has progressively gotten worse, and now he’s out to it in theatre while a collection of surgeons and nurses are operating to remove his appendix.
We have been here since 2.30pm this afternoon, and although that’s almost 9 hours ago, I’m not lamenting the wait nor upset that it has taken 9 hours to get from admission to theatre. The surgeons have been dealing with a roster of life-threatening cases for most of the afternoon, and in the final hours of today, will be helping my son. No, I’m not cross. Tired, yes – it’s been a long day. Grateful, indeed – for the skill and capability of surgeons who can resolve many life or death cases on the side of life. And while they have been working on case after case today, I so appreciated the kind words they had for my son prior to the operation, their exemplary bedside manner throughout the afternoon and evening, and their willingness to discuss options and explore the decision path with my wife and I during the decisions that have brought us to this point.
As my son and I have waited out the day together, we have shared many moments in joint silence, laughed about good and funny times, and enjoyed watching a movie. Despite the wider issues going on with stomach pain and appendicitis for him, it’s still been a good day. Sickness reminds us of the fragility of the human existence, and the delicate balance that exists in our bodies.
In these moments of sitting alone and waiting patiently , I’m reminded of the words in Psalm 23, where David proclaims – in quiet assurance – that the Lord is his shepherd. That the Lord walks with him through the valley of the shadow of death. That the Lord brings him to a place of verdant greenery and peace. I hold onto that proclamation tonight for my son.